Despite the rain and wind blowing around Lodi on Saturday, hundreds of visitors made their way from one tasting room to the next for the 17th annual Wine and Chocolate Weekend.
Nearly 60 wineries set out chocolate treats to pair with new wine releases or their favorite vintage from the cellar. Visitors paid for wristbands which allowed them entry to all participating wineries, and also received a commemorative wine glass.
The event is organized by the Lodi Winegrape Commission to promote the city’s long list of tasting rooms. Individual wineries do not earn any money for participating. Instead, the goal of the event is to promote their wines, and hopefully gain a decent boost in wine sales.
One new listing on the participant lineup was Mettler Family Winery, which opened its Harney Lane tasting room seven months ago after 14 years of making wine. More than 100 tasters filed in for a sip or two of the 2013 Muscat. That wine was a new release, and is not yet available for sale.
The Mettlers were also pouring a 2011 Chardonnay, a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2011 Pinotage.
Winery owner Larry Mettler explained there are only about 30 acres of Pinotage, a South African varietal, in all of California.
“We’ve had a good reaction to it,” said Mettler. “It’s something you’re not always going to find.”
For their chocolate treats, the winery set up a hot chocolate bar with three varieties: Nutella, Mexican hot chocolate and a classic flavor. Visitors enjoyed customizing their hot chocolate with whipped cream, caramel and brownies.
Two Downtown tasting rooms that opened their doors this year were jam-packed for their first foray into the event.
The tasting room staff at Weibel Family Vineyards spent several days baking truffles, cake bites and other sweets for their spread of chocolate treats. A yellow cake was infused with Chardonnay, while the chocolate cake was flavored with a hint of Zinfandel.
“We’re all party divas here, that’s why!” said Dalynn Wold, assistant manager. “It’s our first adventure like this, and we wanted to make a good impression.”
One table was lined with olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Lodi Olive Oil Company for visitors to try.
At the winebar, helpers poured a variety of sparkling wines, including peach, citron, pomegranate, raspberry and almond, as well as a red blend and a white blend.
Heidi Scoggin of Modesto was enjoying a taste of the white blend. She and a group of friends had already visited Jeremy Wine Co. and Riaza Winery before stopping at Weibel. The rain couldn’t deter the smile on her face.
“We will drink wine, rain or shine,” she said.
Another tasting room newbie is Lodi’s Wine Social, where helpers poured a Petit Syrah by Six Hands and a Barbera by Sorelle. Chocolate-covered bacon on a toasted baguette slice with chipotle mayonnaise was a major hit, said manager Tara Smith, who came up with the confection.
“Doing Wine and Chocolate is a no-brainer. Everyone has been talking about it,” she said.
One couple from Tracy was in town to make a whole weekend out of wine tasting.
Shereen and John Rebar had already stopped at the Lodi Wine & Visitor Center and Lodi Wine Cellars to get a taste of several wineries.
“For me, the best chocolate treat has been here,” John Rebar said at Lodi Wine Social.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.